The Raspberry Pi is the infamous credit card sized computer that has revitalised the computer based experiementation first seen with the BBC Micro in the 1980s. It runs a special flavour of Linux called Raspbian, which encourages students to explore the inner workings of a modern operating system. The Pi comes with GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins that allow it to be connected to external devices ranging from LEDs and motors to temperature and movement sensors. There many things that you can do with a Raspberry Pi including:
- Program in Scratch
- Program in Python
- Hack Minecraft Pi and write your own mods.
- Join the Makers movement with your own invention.
If you are interested in experiementing with a Raspberry Pi you will need to buy a few items. There are a number of companies that sell the Raspberry Pi and its accessories such as Amazon, CPC-Farnells, Pi Hut and Element14. Prices and options vary – its worth shopping around.
Here is a basic shopping list:
- A Raspberry Pi Computer (~£25 to £30). There are a few models around but the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B 1GB is the latest model and strongly recommended (Feb 2016)
- A Case (~ £5 to £7). There are many cases around but the official case is pretty good if you are thinking about a Sense Hat or the OneNineDesign is also very good for camera applications.
- A Power Supply (~ £5 to £7). It is easy to buy a cheap power supply which does not deliver enough power. The official supply seems to work pretty well in most basic situations.
- A Micro SD Memory Card (~£5 to £20). Ok, this is a pretty important item and you need to make a decision about what to buy. It needs to be a Class 10 minimum card as anything less will be too slow – so look for the number 10 inside a C on the card. You also need a minimum of a 8GB but don’t go too big as it will take too long to format – 32GB is big enough. When it comes to buying you can either buy a blank SD card and format it yourself or buy one ready installed. If you are going to write your own image you will need a card reader – some laptops/computers have them otherwise you will need an external SD Card reader.
- Network Connection. If the Raspberry Pi is close enough that it can be plugged into your home network then just a network cable will suffice otherwise you are going to need a little USB Wifi Network adapter (~£6).
You will also need the following:
- A HDMI compatible monitor and HDMI to HDMI lead.
- A USB Keyboard.
- A USB Mouse.
There are many things you can do with a Raspberry Pi on its own but a few optional extras will make it much more exciting: